Canada’s vaccine crisis: The deadly vaccine ‘that no one gets’

Think of it as the bronchitis vaccine that practically no one gets. The government’s immunization campaign for the childhood vaccine called CVID-19 for preventing childhood pneumonia is withering.

Five million doses of CVID-19 vaccine should have been delivered to schools in Ontario by the end of last year. Since that was more than 6,000 doses short, the province must now devote more money to dispensing CVID-19 in public schools. It’s impossible to know the exact number of doses it has delivered so far since vaccination campaigns that started in January and had roughly 2.5 million doses have been winding down. But children are still missing vaccinations and there is growing concern they will develop pneumonia later in life.

“[As of] March 8th, 612 schools had receive no vaccines, in a province of 8,306,318 students and more than 18,700 schools,” writes Barbara Young, who has a direct pipeline to provincial health officials. “A list of clinics that still haven’t received CVID-19 is available here.”

The result is a total shortage of vaccines for a vaccine that is essential in Canada and around the world to prevent pneumonia, and which can be acquired in seconds. In December, a Canadian pediatrician told The Canadian Press that fewer than half of newborns get vaccinated against the virus that can cause infant pneumonia as the traditional vaccine was replaced by CVID-19.

CVID-19 has been approved by Health Canada, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is especially important for travellers.

“When someone leaves Ontario or Canada, a majority of them will have a robust vaccination schedule,” says Dr. Benjie Jadeja, a professor of microbiology at the University of Toronto who was once a resident at Mount Sinai Hospital. He gave a talk at the annual meeting of the Canadian Pediatric Society on Friday urging pediatricians to emphasize the importance of inoculations to their patients.

As Young, who worked for decades on vaccines in Canada, notes, organizations such as Doctors of Ontario, the Ontario Paediatric Society and other public health experts also have been pushing governments hard to get the vaccines to parents. They argue that though the federal government may claim the vaccine is well-suited for children, it’s tricky to get parents to agree to consent.

After all, with all the promotional techniques such as videos, digital tools and literature, it’s difficult to watch an educational video about a vaccine if a parent still thinks she should wait until she gets home from work to get the shot.

“It’s kind of like a microphone that parents are holding,” says Dr. Jill Moffatt, a pediatrician and chair of child-health policy at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

(The Canadian Press looked at all the figures available and found that in the past year the number of Canadian hospitalizations for pneumonia is down 12 per cent to 55,922. The Canadian Institute for Health Information reported in 2014-15 that five children between the ages of one and 17 died from pneumococcal pneumonia.)

For parents, some said a 2015 incident in which a Toronto nurse and oncologist argued and brawled in a hospital hallway over parents wanting to delay CVID-19 gave them pause. But new materials were quickly rolled out by the Ontario government in the ensuing months to try to explain the new vaccine.

“There are some people, unfortunately, who don’t get it,” says Glenda Rutstein, a senior advisor for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. She says they believe the shot is too strong, perhaps even unsafe. After medical school and later, she says, she received at least two injections for her children. She was on the fence.

“I’m still not sure if I should get it,” she says.

Children should get the shot on the eighth birthday, she adds.

The Province of Ontario says it is still targeting 6.4 million inoculations for CVID-19 in 2019.

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